"Hey, a MOVIE about Jesse James? Who says Hollywood has no good ideas left?"
The dodo is extinct. Society has gone beyond the need for leechings and horse-drawn buggies. Nobody uses CB radios anymore. So can someone PLEASE tell me why we're still getting "Jesse James" movies?I bet there are more Jesse James movies than there are porn flicks starring women. Hollywood must believe that characters like Jesse James, The Musketeers, Zorro and Robin Hood are the cinematic equivalent of the Olympic Games. Every 2 years another offering shows up, each one less compelling than the movie before. A film that can best be described as the "dumb version" of Young Guns 2, American Outlaws ranks among the year's most entertainingly insipid movies.
Stop me if you've heard this one before:
Frank and Jesse return home after the Civil War, hoping to build a nice quiet lifestyle and raise some young'ens. Unfortunately, here come the evil railroad tycoons who promptly torch the town and kill Mama James. Along with their good buddies, the Youngers, Frank and Jesse set off to rob lots of banks. The end.
What makes this one any different than the Young Guns flicks, the underrated cable movie Frank & Jesse, the classic Philip Kaufman western The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid or Walter Hill's very entertaining The Long Riders? Well, nothing...other than about 65 billion brain cells.
Imagine a "Wild West" episode of Beverly Hills 90210 with a guest appearance by Timothy Dalton. Better yet, imagine a local high school junior prom plopped into the Old West and you'll have a good idea of the silliness that is American Outlaws. Rare is the childish movie that tries so hard to wear its "grownup" face while failing so resoundingly.
And that's what's so fun about this movie. The sheer badness of it. For the most part, the acting performances are reminiscent of a middle-school adaptation of Our Town. The screenplay reads like it was written by two 15-year olds weaned on a strict diet of cliches, stereotypes and Lone Ranger episodes. The directorial style can best be described as (and I'm being nice here) drab. The action sequences are preposterous, the dramatic scenes are hilarious and the entire film simply reeks of B-movie wackiness.
Colin Farrell (Tigerland) plays Jesse like he's the captain of the football team. No legendary bad man here, this Jesse simply wants to be left alone and only kills people in self defense. As Jesse's lovely girlfriend Zee we have Ali Larter (Legally Blonde) who is as out-of-place in this movie as she is blonde and purty. The gang is comprised of the various bland cowboy types as played by Scott Caan, Gabriel Macht and handful of others which the screenplay successfully ignores.The poster for American Outlaws features the tag line: Bad is Good Again. Given the sheer unintentional hilarity of the entire movie, I couldn't agree more.